Thursday, June 07, 2007

Quote of the day

From the Washington Post, in an article about the intricacies of the American caucus, a description of Teresa Vilmain, certified caucus expert (of course she has to be described physically, because she is a woman for crying out loud, so we need to know if she is fashionable or not):
Vilmain, 48, has been a near-legend among caucus operatives since she ran Michael S. Dukakis's Iowa campaign two decades ago at the age of 28. She was raised on Iowa politics, watching as her mother held Democratic caucuses in their Cedar Falls home. With her long skirts and her long hair pulled atop her head, she could be mistaken for an English professor. But she strides into rooms as if tilted against a gale, speaks in the staccato delivery of a ward boss, and never ends a meeting without "action items" for everyone present.

Hmmm, swirling gypsy skirts and an uncut mane in a tidy bun: yes, that is definitely the female professors of English I know. Why didn't they mention Vilmain's shoes? Are they sensible, like an English professor's? I bet they are sensible.

Clearly no mere English professor would ever "stride into a room as if tilted against a gale" or speak forcefully; hence that telling "But." Why not? Too enervated from leading a life of leisure reading, I suppose.


Karl Steel said...

With her long skirts and her long hair pulled atop her head, she could be mistaken for an English professor.

Or Mrs Danvers in Hitchcock's version of Rebecca.

Here's a question I've asked before. Seems like a good place for it, again:

Suggested narcissist article: changing perception of academics. When did academics go from being nerdy (think Ball of Fire) to being too avant garde? Socrates? Abalard? Wyclif?

Matthew Gabriele said...

It could be worse. How about this one from The Washington Post:

Costner's Earl Brooks owns a box factory that he rules with benevolent despotism in the coastal Oregon city. How can you hate a guy who wears a bow tie and dresses like a professor of medieval poetry at the Yale of the '50s?

Of course, this is referring to the new film "Mr. Brooks", about Costner as a serial killer...

Karl Steel said...

medieval poetry at the Yale of the '50s?

Good lord. Why medieval poetry? Why Yale? Strikes me as at once off base and overdetermined.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Hey, LDW and Scott Nokes both wear bow ties. But only one of them is an English professor. I can pretty much guarantee that neither of them has the kind of hair that would easily go into a bun. And I can't see them in flowing skirts, either.

Ooh! Karl -- or Madame Konstantine in Notorious.

Karl -- doesn't it have to go the other way around if it's from Chaucer to anything? or ... well, Donald Sutherland's character in Animal House is not nerdy.

It's funny, though -- I can't think of any representations of female academics that are nerdy-but-amazingly-cute-and-charming. It's always the men.

Jeffrey Cohen said...

ADM: How about (and here I reveal my lowbrow past) Sally Kellerman in the Rodney Dangerfield film Back to School? She plays a apssionate professor of poetry (say that five times fast). I guess she's not nerdy, though ...

Matthew: it's like they took every synonym for "dull" and "dessicated" to come up with that formulation: medieval, poetry, Yale, the 50s. Great!

PS, You'll find a discussion of the representation of the professoriate at ITM here.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

JJ-- I have problems with the whole Sally Kellerman thing, because she is still Hot Lips Houlihan to me, so SK as uptight schoolteacher just has all those horrible "underneath her Clark Kent exterior, Ms. Professor was ... a Vixen!" images. Not that I have ever read such lowbrow stuff!